Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)

Escape to Witch Mountain poster

Walt Disney Productions
Starring:
 Kim Richards, Ike Eisenmann, Eddie Albert
Directed by: John Hough

Cat Out of the Bag Alert!  This review contains some spoilers for this film!

Synopsis: Tia (Kim Richards) and Tony (Ike Eisenmann) Malone are orphans who possess extrasensory perception and powers which brings them to the attention of ruthless multi-millionaire Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland) who will stop at nothing to use their talents for his gain.

Cinema Cat: Tia and Tina’s companion is Winkie the black cat.  Winkie was in the original novel by Alexander H. Key and in the book the children were sent to a juvenile detention home which is where Tia befriended her.  In the movie the children are sent to a child welfare home.  Winkie appears when a bully named Truck (Dermott Downs) takes Tina’s star case.  The cat is watching the exchange and then leaps at Truck, knocking the case from his hands.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat looking up

Winkie climbs into a tree and meows.  Tony says, “Nice goin’, Winkie!” as the cat winks at them.  This is achieved by the film being run back and forth as the cat actor closes one eye.  According to the film’s director John Hough in the commentary track for the DVD, the shot of Winkie climbing into the tree was shot by a specialist who waited for the right situation to get the correct shots.  Several cats were used in the making of the film.  As for Winkie’s wink, it was eventually achieved by spraying some kind of harmless liquid into the cat’s eye, which was carefully supervised by an animal cruelty prevention officer.  Hough explained that Disney was always adamant about the safety of the animals used in his pictures (the White Wilderness controversy notwithstanding).

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat winking animated gif

Winkie is a close companion of the children and accompanies them when they are adopted by their supposed uncle Lucas Deranian (Donald Pleasance).  They are taken in a limousine to the home of Deranian’s employee, Artistotle Bolt.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat with Tony and Tia in back of limo

Eventually the children realize they are in danger in the mansion and decide to escape.  They take Winkie with them and Winkie helps them escape from the gate by making Lorko (Tiger Joe Marsh) the guard sneeze.  Winkie then jumps from the guard house into the arms of Tony on the back of Thunderhead the horse.  Actor Ike Eisenmann explained on the DVD commentary that Winkie the cat was thrown at him and landed with all claws out.  Unfortunately the scene had to be shot several times.  Both Ike and Kim commented on the cat actor scratching them.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat with Tony and Tia in back of limo

The children stow away in the Winnebago of a lone drifter named Jason O’Day (Eddie Albert).  He sees Winkie and is friendly to the cat but not as friendly to the children at first.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat being petted by O'Day

Later O’Day can’t find his keys and he thinks the children have taken them to force him to take them where they want to go.  As Tina starts the Winnebago with her mind, Winkie finds the keys in the sand and brings them back to O’Day.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat fetches keys

Winkie also saves the say when Deranian and his henchman find the Winnebago and approach it threateningly.  Winkie has heard them and climbs into a tree then jumps down, knocking the gun from the henchman’s hand and alerting the others inside of the danger.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat in tree looking down

At the end of the film the children ask O’Day to keep Winkie for them.  Winkie meows her approval.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat being looked at by O'Day

O’Day holds Winkie up as the spaceship takes off.  It would have been nice if Winkie could have winked again but it was not to be.  Winkie also did not return for any of the film’s sequels.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat being held up by O'Day

Final Mewsings: Both witches and aliens appreciate black cats!


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